Why Opt for a Paperless Office?
The continued use of paper has many undesirable consequences resulting in what AIIM, the Association of Information and Image Management, calls 'business at the speed of paper'. Think postal communications versus email, or the time it takes to locate and collect a paper file from a four-drawer filing cabinet compared to retrieval from an electronic document management system. Dependence on paper impacts business agility, efficiency, productivity and profitability in numerous ways. This makes it difficult to:
Enhance Customer Data Management
The difficulty of integrating separate repositories for information stored on paper and in electronic form makes it hard to mine data and identify new business opportunities, to develop a deeper understanding of customers' buying habits, to answer queries, to collaborate or to share knowledge. If information is buried in silos, including employees' own filing systems, it isn't available to others.
Make Data Available to Staff
Information stored on paper is inaccessible to staff working remotely, from home, client sites or when travelling. Organizations that rely on paper will find it harder to implement flexible working practices that require remote workers to have access to the same information as office-based colleagues. Likewise, without digitization, paper collected in the field has to be mailed or delivered to the office before it can be used by office-based employees.
Improve Business Document Management
Using paper to record and store information is time-consuming and a drain on productivity. Paper slows things down at every stage of a process, from data entry to filing and retrieval. Separate studies by EDM Group1 and Steelcase2 suggest that the average UK office worker spends between one and one and a half hours a week looking for documents. Some waste as many as five hours a week rifling through filing cabinets and piles of paper.
Optimize Data for Customer Service
With data in separate silos, it can take time to gather the information needed to answer a customer query. In a Censuswide poll commissioned by Netcall, 11% of consumers said they had taken their business to a competitor after failing to get a satisfactory response to a complaint at the first time of asking.
Avoid Human Error in Data Entry
The use of paper increases the risk of misfiled and lost documents and the likelihood of data entry errors when transcribing information from paper forms.
Save Money on Printing
Print and paper handling is a major business cost. Gartner claims that enterprises spend as much as 1-3% of their revenue on paper, printing and filing, including the cost of office space taken up by filing cabinets and/or off-site storage and retrieval.
Digitization, then, is not a question of going paper-free, but rather of using paper where its benefits are greatest and eliminating it from other processes. Its main purpose is to erase distinctions between printed and digital documents, so that you can introduce all-digital processes within the confines of your business or network; send and receive documents in any format; and integrate information from multiple sources to give workers a single view of customer interactions.
1. EDMGroup press release, Research reveals employees waste time worth £29 billion looking for lost documents, September 16, 2013.
2. Steelcase Solutions press release, Unhappy office workers ‘losing’ 90 minutes everyday, September 12, 2013.